Experience the Real Old West at a Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Have you ever dreamt about riding across the plains or through the desert pushing cattle, hootin’ and a hollerin’ from the back of a horse? At a working cattle dude ranch, you will get to experience what the real west used to be and how “the real cowboys” used to live. You may just do some day work around the ranch, moving a herd of cattle from one pasture to another, or you may have the choice to go on an overnight cattle drive. You could camp out under the stars, if you so please, or sleep in a wall tent, tell stories around the campfire and eat meals cooked over an open fire. 

It sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it? At these 10 dude ranches listed below, as well as others listed on the Dude Ranchers’ Association website, you will find a true cowboy and western lifestyle experience. Check several things off your bucket list at one time with a working cattle dude ranch vacation! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch Vacation

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Vee Bar Guest Ranch - Laramie, WY

Hidden Hollow Hideaway Cattle and Guest Ranch – Montana

Looking for an unplugged and refreshing vacation with a little excitement added in? Hidden Hollow Hideaway might just be your perfect destination. Ride through luscious green meadows while moving cattle, all while taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Rocky Mountains which surround you. The folks at Hidden Hollow Hideaway will make sure you are equipped with the right horse and tack to make your experience is the best it can be! While here, you will be able to improve your riding and horsemanship skills, improve your confidence and help the cowboys and cowgirls of the ranch move the cattle to new pastures. You do not need to have previous riding experience before coming to the ranch, just a willing attitude!

V6 Ranch – California 

When most people think of California they think of sunny beaches, board walks and surfing. When you visit the V6 Ranch in Parkfield, California you will have a whole different outlook on California. On a cattle drive with the folks at V6 you will experience an adventure that will awaken your spirit and bring you back to the beauty of the untamed west. The V6 Ranch has four cattle drives scheduled each year that allow guests to go on an overnight trip. Their schedule for each trip is all laid out on their website and offers great detail. This is not an adventure you want to miss out on! You will help gather and move the ranch’s herd of cattle from many locations and will have the opportunity to work with real cowboys who can teach you working knowledge of gathering, moving and sorting cattle. While on a cattle drive you will also be able to increase and improve your horseback riding skills and techniques. If you are looking for a true cowboy and western adventure, look no further than the V6 Ranch. 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

V6 Ranch - Parkfield, CA

Sweet Grass Ranch – Montana

The Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana is a fantastic destination to satisfy your “inner cowboy and cowgirl.” Although the ranch does not move cattle every week, they do have specific weeks during their season that they have cattle drives as well as other cowboy work available for guests to participate in. Make sure to talk to the folks at the ranch well in advance to make sure that your stay will include cattle work, and if you are looking for an overnight cattle drive they have an option for that to! The overnight cattle drive usually takes place at the last week of July into the first week of August. Guests are encouraged to verify specific dates for cattle work and the overnight cattle drive when booking their vacation. You don’t want to miss out on these great experiences! 

Vee Bar Guest Ranch – Wyoming

At the Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Wyoming cattle work is a highlight of the week! While horseback riding, fly fishing and the kids’ program are loads of fun, guests really look forward to getting to live the true cowboy lifestyle, even if it is just for a day. While working cattle at the Vee Bar you will get to help the wranglers move cattle from one pasture to another, learn how to help sort off certain cattle as well as doctor any sick cattle. All of the horseback riding and cattle work at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch is adaptable to all levels of experience. You do not have to be an expert rider before you arrive at the ranch; if you think about, cowboys had to be beginner riders before they could become experts! 

Burnt Well Guest Ranch – New Mexico 

An authentic “old west” style cattle drive is what you will find at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico. Here you will experience what it was like to live on prairie and in the desert while moving cattle and putting many miles in the saddle. This cattle drive is the duration of a week and happens once a year in the fall. The ranch will supply you with a bedroll, cot, cowboy teepee, horse and tack. All you need to bring is a go-getter attitude, a smile and probably some clothes! Stories, memories and bucket list items are created on this cattle drive and if it is something you have always wanted to do, do not miss your chance! If you are not up for a week-long cattle drive, Burnt Well also has cattle working opportunities included in their all-inclusive packages. Relax at the ranch and enjoy family time while getting to do the several activities available. Work with real cowboys and learn the ways of the west at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Burnt Well Guest Ranch - Roswell, NM

Red Reflet Guest Ranch – Wyoming

Where there is cow work to be done, guests are welcome to “cowboy” the herd at the Red Reflet Ranch! At this beautiful luxury working cattle dude ranch you will find pristine lodging, Le Cordon Bleu cuisine made from a farm to table program and numerous exhilarating activities to participate in. There are many cattle activities to enjoy, moving the herd with the wranglers, branding and gathering opportunities, checking in on newborn baby calves, sorting cattle and pairing them up as needed. Here, you will get to see what a true working cattle ranch is like and be able to help the on-site cowboys with their herd management duties. The cowboys are a wealth of knowledge and are so willing to teach guests who are willing to learn! 

Bull Hill Guest Ranch – Washington

Cowboys and cowgirls will have the opportunity to participate in authentic cattle drives at the Bull Hill Guest Ranch. The cattle drives can range from a half day to a full day in the saddle and they usually take place between the months of May and October. During these months’ guests will have the chance to move cattle to spring grass areas, upper pastures for the summer and in the early fall months they are driven back to the ranch. You do not have to be a cattle expert to go on one of these cattle drives at Bull Hill, but confidence is key! Beautiful scenery, great horses and lots of fun await you on a cattle drive! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bull Hill Guest Ranch - Kettle Falls, WA

Focus Ranch – Wyoming

At the Focus Ranch, located on the Wyoming and Colorado border, guests are invited to participate in the day-to-day operations of the ranch. Although the ranch does have other activities such as fly fishing, hiking and photography opportunities, the main focus of the ranch is horseback riding and cattle. Taking care of their horses and cattle is their main priority and the folks at the ranch truly enjoy getting to teach people and watch them learn the ways of the “real west.” There is an art to working cattle and at the Focus Ranch you will learn the ropes and get to put your skills to the test. This is the real deal! 

Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch – Montana

There are many reasons to visit Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch but great riding, trustworthy ranch horses and the thrill of moving cattle are on the top of most people’s lists! While at the ranch you will get to see beautiful mountain scenery, climb the high ridges, ride along Bonanza Creek, lope through open meadows and gather up a herd of cow/calf pairs to move from pasture to pasture. Bonanza Creek is a true working cattle ranch, the cattle along with their guests is their way of life. They value the guests who come in eager and excited to learn about the cattle ranch life and the ways of the cowboy. You will experience other activities as well as great lodging and home cooked meals. Become a Montana cowboy or cowgirl for a week at this wonderful ranch! 

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

Working Cattle Dude Ranch

 

Bonanza Creek Guest Ranch - Martinsdale, MT

Klondike Ranch – Wyoming

At the Klondike Ranch you will have the option of how much of a guest you want to be. What does that mean exactly? You can relax and let the crew at the ranch take care of you or you can dive into the hands-on work of a cattle ranch! By the time you leave the ranch you might just be the “handiest” person in your group. At Klondike you will get to enjoy great horseback rides and herd cattle, participate in the ranch hand chores if you please or even go on an overnight camp out at the ranch’s Mountain Cow Camp. You will feel like a true cowboy or cowgirl after spending a vacation at the Klondike Ranch and get to tell all of your friends, co-workers and family that you go the chance to work alongside real Wyoming cowboys!

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Have you ever dreamt about riding across the plains or through the desert pushing cattle, hootin’ and a hollerin’ from the back of a horse? At a working cattle dude ranch, you will get to experience what the real west used to be and how “the real cowboys” used to live.

Top 6 California Dude Ranch Vacations

California dude ranch vacations offer accommodations and itineraries that are exciting for the whole family or solo traveler. Horseback riding through mountains and meadows makes guests forget about the stereotypical beaches and crowds of California’s big cities. Guests see this undiscovered side at a dude ranch. Life at the ranch creates a sense of calm any traveler can appreciate with well-appointed cabins, rocking chairs and hot coffee. 

Sitting across from a cowboy in wrangler jeans and a white straw hat, adventure travelers can hear stories of what some would call the bygone days of the cowboy. Here it’s still alive and well. Guests are amazed at the exceptional experience dude ranching offers.  As a week-long immersion into Western culture begins, guests get to release tension and enjoy the outdoors. 

Just because this is a ranch vacation doesn’t mean all there is to do is horseback riding. There is an abundance of outdoor activities for the perfect balance for a week spent in the serene areas of California. Here are the top 6 places to hang your hat and saddle up for a week. 

Top 6 California Dude Ranch Vacations 

 

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

A Golf Resort Meets Dude Ranch

With all the luxuries of a fine resort, The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort boasts an experience envied by Californians and travelers from all over the world. The ranch offers a variety of activities and packages to suit a romantic getaway or a large family reunion in a beautiful location near the Danish town of Solvang and right in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. If guests are looking to try horseback riding and enjoy traditional outdoor activities like golf, cycling or fishing this is a great place to be. 

Alisal California Dude Ranch

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort - Solvang, CA 

V6 Ranch 

A Family Tradition of Cattle Work

In central California between Los Angeles and San Francisco lies the 20,000 acres of the V6 Ranch, inviting guests to experience a true, authentic western cattle ranch. Rugged riding, working cattle all day long, sleeping in tents on the range are a few of the options the ranch offers. If guests choose not to go on the cattle drives, the main lodge rooms and cabins are luxurious, the restaurant is very nice and other activities include hiking, photography, bird watching and 50 miles of trails to explore. 

V6 California Dude Ranch

V6 Ranch - Parkfield, CA

Hunewill Circle "H" Guest Ranch

A Charming Ranch in Western Style

Guests feel right at home on this California dude ranch. The staff is known for being friendly and accommodating, getting to know everyone on a personal level. Hunewill Ranch creates lasting friendships through creek-side barbecues, trout fishing, hiking, mountain biking and of course, horseback riding. The Bridgeport Valley where the ranch is located is an unspoiled recreational paradise and even borders Yosemite National Park

Hunewill California Dude Ranch

Hunewill Cirlce "H" Guest Ranch - Bridgeport, CA

Marble Mountain Ranch

A Saddle and Paddle Adventure for Everyone

Famous for their signature “Saddle and Paddle Program” the folks at Marble Mountain Ranch are experts at exciting white-water rafting trips down the Klamath River and horseback rides through the inherently rugged and forested area. And this is just the beginning of the family adventures the ranch offers. ATV rides, steelhead fly fishing, barrel racing, a paint ball course and campfire events are just a few more adventures guests get to experience at this ranch in Northern California. 

Marble Mountain California Dude Ranch

Marble Mountain Ranch - Somes Bar, CA

Greenhorn Ranch

Live California’s Lost Sierra 

Greenhorn has an incredible set up to share with guests in the Lost Sierra, an alpine paradise of 8,500-foot peaks and turquoise lakes. Guests are invited to dine with wranglers and soak up the Western lifestyle experience in this spectacular home away from home. They head out on the trail to grow in confidence with horses and their horseback riding skills. Once back at the barn guests have plenty of options for outdoor activities and relaxation. 

Greenhorn California Dude Ranch

Greenhorn Ranch - Quincy, CA

Rankin Ranch

150 Years and 5 Generations of History

As a historical working cattle operation, the Rankin Ranch was homesteaded 150 years ago and now is the home for the 4th and 5th generation of ranchers from the Rankin family. Businesses, families and travelers from around the world stop by to see what California dude ranch life is really all about. That is - riding through mountains and meadows, swimming, hiking and fishing in the Tehachapi Mountains or at the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest.  

Rankin Ranch California dude ranch

Rankin Ranch - Caliente, CA

 

View more dude ranches outside of California here!

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California dude & guest ranch vacations offer accommodations and itineraries that are exciting for the whole family or solo traveler. Horseback riding through mountains and meadows makes guests forget about the stereotypical beaches and crowds of California’s big cities. Guests see this undiscovered side at a dude ranch. Life at the ranch creates a sense of calm any traveler can appreciate with well-appointed cabins, rocking chairs and hot coffee.

The Dude Ranchers’ Association Welcomes 5 New Members

The Dude Ranchers’ Association is the premier membership-based organization for dude ranches and has welcomed five new ranches in 2018: V6 Ranch, Kay El Bar Ranch, Parade Rest Guest Ranch, Campbell Hills Guest Ranch and Allen’s Diamond 4 Ranch. As a non-profit association, membership is not a pay to play process but a mark of the highest quality. Acceptance requires a rigorous two-year application process and distinguishes a ranch as one that guests can trust to provide excellent customer care and a horseback riding vacation of a lifetime. 

Guests looking to experience something new and exciting can look into the unique and individual offerings of each of these new members. Each of these ranches are located in a different Western state, from Arizona up to British Columbia and offers their own dude ranch niche experience. 

 

dude ranches

V6 Ranch, California

Nestled in the Cholame Valley, the V6 Ranch envelops 20,000 acres of the most diverse and alluring country in the heart of central California. Conveniently located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the ranch is just a four-hour drive from either city. The V6 Ranch offers the delight of bygone days in a world where fast is the average speed.

About V6 Ranch

This beautiful ranch offers activities to tickle the fancy of any person that seeks peace and quiet. The clean air and warm nights are ideal for laying out under the stars. The ranch offers trail rides, cattle drives, and horse camping. The V6 Ranch offers over 50 scenic miles of trails to explore with maps and trail markers to show the way. They also offers hiking, photography, over 200 varieties of wildflowers, wildlife and bird watching.

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Kay El Bar Ranch, Arizona

The Kay El Bar Guest Ranch is a historic dude ranch listed on the National and State Historical landmark registers and is located in the Old West town of Wickenburg, AZ. Nestled in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains on the banks of the Hassaymapa River, Kay El Bar is a desert oasis ranch where warm hospitality has been a tradition since 1926. The ranch offers an authentic and casual western vacation experience suitable for guests of all ages. Special occasion groups and team retreats are welcome. Their America Plan rate includes lodging, all meals, horseback riding and use of all ranch facilities.

About Kay El Bar Ranch

Kay El Bar is a winter ranch, open from November until May. The climate includes bi-seasonal rainfall, making it one of the lushest deserts, with giant cacti, short trees and a great variety of shrubbery and animal life. There are thousands of acres of desert hills and canyons to explore on horseback. The charming adobe ranch was built in the late 1800s, and, like all the early dude ranches, began as a working cattle outfit. The building's adobe walls are built of sun-dried brick 12 to 18 inches thick; each brick was made by hand by the Maricopa Indians who lived on the nearby reservation. The ranch is completely up to date in its comforts, including modern bathrooms, a pool, and a whirlpool spa.

Activities at the ranch center around the riding program, with rides twice a day except for Sunday when there is long morning ride and a trail-side cookout. The wranglers love introducing children (minimum age 7) and adult first-time riders to the pleasures of riding the trail on a trusty mount. Experienced riders find many delights in riding the Arizona hills. Non-riders and younger children can enjoy the ranch pool, spa, evening group activities, hiking, and exploring the western town of Wickenburg. Local golf courses welcome visitors.

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dude ranches

Parade Rest Guest Ranch, Montana

Parade Rest Guest Ranch is a true Montana dude ranch offering that memorable Montana guest ranch experience, located just 15 minutes from the west entrance, it is the closest of all the Montana guest ranches to Yellowstone National Park. Their all-inclusive vacation packages combine log cabin lodging, all your meals, unlimited horseback trail rides, world-class fly-fishing and an unforgettable outdoor mountain cookout.

About Parade Rest Ranch 

The ranch has 15 log cabins of various sizes, beds, bedrooms and bathrooms are spread across the ranch.  Some sit next to the Grayling Creek which runs thru the ranch which is a great fly-fishing stream. The sound of the creek is a favorite to many. Other cabins sit on a lower bluff overlooking the horses, ranch creek, Hebgen lake, Gallatin Mountain Range and awesome sunrises and sunsets. Parade Rest Ranch is a great place to call home while in the Yellowstone area.

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Campbell Hills Guest Ranch, British Columbia Canada

Ride a horse on the alpine meadows, observe unique birds in their natural habitat and discover the many hidden fishing spots right in the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia. Campbell Hills Guest Ranch offers exceptional horseback riding in mountainous terrain.

About Campbell Hills Guest Ranch

When guests arrive at the ranch worries drift away as they settle into perfect harmony with the rhythms of nature. British Columbia is known for its beautiful landscape, relaxed atmosphere, and high-quality living, and this guest ranch is no exception.  The ranch uses a technique called natural horsemanship, which is a philosophy of working with horses based on the horse's natural instincts and methods of communication. Here the horses are ridden without bits in their mouths and without metal shoes on the trails.

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Allen’s Diamond 4, Wyoming

Allen's Diamond 4 Ranch is located in the rugged Wind River Mountain Range and is Wyoming's highest wilderness guest ranch offering log cabins, mountain trail riding, fly fishing, wilderness pack trips, and hunting in the Shoshone National Forest. The ranch has access to the Wind Rivers from the Dickinson Park Trailhead, the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie and Worthen Meadows.

About Allen’s Diamond 4 Ranch

The Wind River Mountain Range boasts the largest active glaciers in the lower 48 states, hundreds of alpine lakes teeming with wild trout, abundant wildlife and world class fly fishing and mountain climbing. The unique setting of the Diamond 4 Ranch in Dickinson Park gives you access to 100,000 spectacular acres. Guests saddle up and join a real western adventure! There is something for everyone - families, groups and individuals are welcome.

The ranch owner Jim Allen carries on the family tradition of hosting visitors in the spectacular Wind River Mountain Range like his grandfather did in the 1920's. Jim & his wife Mary love packing in the "Winds" and are dedicated to using the land wisely with minimum impact camping practices. The Diamond 4 Ranch gets its name from the Allen's horse brand which has a history from the days of the open range. 

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The Dude Ranchers’ Association is the premier membership-based organization for dude ranches and has welcomed five new ranches in 2018. As a non-profit association, membership is not a pay to play process but a mark of the highest quality. Acceptance requires a rigorous two-year application process and distinguishes a ranch as one that guests can trust to provide excellent customer care and a horseback riding vacation of a lifetime.

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